The 411 on Operator Training and Licensing

A focus on safety, commitment and accountability – these are the core elements of an effective nuclear reactor operator.

A nuclear reactor operator, senior reactor operator or anyone supervising the operation of a commercial nuclear reactor must be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The license is only valid to operate that specific facility and expires after six years.  At that time, just as with a driver’s license, the license can be renewed.

Words such as “extensive” and “rigorous” best describe operator experience. And, even the most experienced operators, prepare extensively for exam day!  Even before the extensive and rigorous NRC licensing begins, an applicant must undergo a physical examination and be qualified as physically and mentally fit to be an operator.

Ready to start the basic operator classroom training?  Then prepare for 31 weeks of  geometry, trigonometry, algebraic operations and equations, logarithms and graph interpretation; plant components such as pumps, valves, steam turbines, and electrical components; fundamental thermodynamic principles; plant chemistry and radiochemistry; reactor theory principles; plant specific training.

Upon successful completion of this stage, operators are not yet licensed. They do, however, continue attending requalification training every five weeks – 20 percent of their working career. This phase (which takes more than a year), includes hands-on control room simulator training, specific plant systems training, on-the-job observations, task qualification and much more. This culminates with the final NRC exam, which the individual must pass to be a licensed operator.

If a licensed reactor operator is interested in moving to the next career phase as a senior Nuclear Operatorreactor operator, additional years of training are required.

The operator training facility at Duke Energy received accreditation through the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ (INPO) National Academy for Nuclear Training Accrediting Board. In addition, INPO evaluates each plant’s training programs to identify strengths and challenges, and recommend improvements.

Duke Energy prides itself on having highly trained and experienced operators, and its nuclear plants are among the safest facilities in the nation. Safe and reliable operations is due to operators and all employees’ commitment to being  good stewards of public health and safety and the environment.